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Monmouth00

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Got my new electric BIAB rig today, and had to run some tests before I started brewing. I have some questions for you folks, and appreciate your feedback.
I’ve got a 15 gallon aluminum kettle, outfitted with two 1650 watt elements. One element is plugged directly to the socket, the other is running through my new Inkbird IPB-16S PID. The temp probe is in a thermowell below the false bottom. I’ve also got a small pump that’s recirculating through a port on the lid.
So far, so good. The temp in the garage was about 42 degrees. I brought 8 gallons of water from 46 degrees to 160 in about 50 minutes. Then went from 160 to boiling in about 30 minutes.
The temp reading on the Inkbird was reading about 2 degrees below the separate thermometer I was using.
But, I am having some problems keeping the boil going well. Despite setting the Inkbird at 220, the temp probe never got above 208, and while the water was very slowly rolling, it was never vigorous. I set the Inkbird manually to 100% output but it didn’t make a difference. Other than that, all went well with the test.
So, here begins my questions:
Is there a good way to calibrate the Inkbird temp probe? The directions are kind of crap. It seems like plug and play, but are there initial set up steps I should be taking?
Any reason the two elements aren’t giving me a good boil? Was it the ambient temperature? Should I add some insulation to the kettle?
Any feedback you guys can give is greatly appreciated. Cheers!
 

grampamark

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3300 watts is about 11,000 BTUs. I think you might be a little low on horsepower.

I brew 5 gallon batches, 6.5-7 gallons pre boil volume, on a 30,000 BTU burner. I can heat +/- 4 gallons of strike water to 165° in about 10 minutes and bring the wort to a boil in 15-20 minutes, just as a point of reference.
 

Bobby_M

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3300 watts is more than enough to boil 8 gallons vigorously. The Anvil foundry, mash and boil, and all the other common all in one rigs try to get away with a single 1600 watt element. While I contend they are all underpowered, DOUBLE that amount certainly is not. I would try plugging the elements directly in to the two circuits you have and removing the controller just to rule that out. You can also troubleshoot if something is going on with one particular element by plugging one in at a time and observing bubble activity.

When I reach a boil on my kettle, I drop the 5500 watts down to 58-60% output. That's the same 3300 watts.

You may also want to plug a multi-meter into your circuits just to see what the actual voltage is. 120v is standard but I've seen 110, 108, etc. Lower input voltage lowers the wattage pretty significantly.

Another test you can do with a multi-meter is testing the element's ohms between the two blades on the plugs (no voltage connected). They should both measure about 8.7 ohms.

8 gallons from 46 to 160F comes out to about 40 minutes with a true 3300 watts but that's assuming no losses. A bare aluminum pot in 42F ambient temps will definitely have some loss so 50 minutes seems about right.
 

Bobby_M

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3300 watts is about 11,000 BTUs. I think you might be a little low on horsepower.

I brew 5 gallon batches, 6.5-7 gallons pre boil volume, on a 30,000 BTU burner. I can heat +/- 4 gallons of strike water to 165° in about 10 minutes and bring the wort to a boil in 15-20 minutes, just as a point of reference.
Comparing the actual BTU of immersion elements to the theoretical BTU of a burner is almost meaningless because the former is nearly 100% efficient while burners run about 30% efficient.
 

grampamark

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Comparing the actual BTU of immersion elements to the theoretical BTU of a burner is almost meaningless because the former is nearly 100% efficient while burners run about 30% efficient.
I understand that. My point, and I could have worded it a bit better, is that I’m using about the same effective BTUs as the OP and heating only slightly less volume in a shorter time.
 
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Monmouth00

Monmouth00

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So, if the 8 gallons from 46 to 160degrees, at 42F ambient, in about 50 minutes is right - wouldn't this be indicative that I have the correct amount of power?

So why am I not getting a vigorous boil?

I'll try again with the elements plugged directly into the sockets (bypassing the inkbird) to see if that makes a difference, but it doesn't seem like the problem.

I've also enlisted some sewing help to make some insulation for the kettle out of a moving blanket and some reflectix.
 

FloppyKnockers

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I've got a similar set-up. I have two 1,500 watt elements. When heating to strike or to reach boil, they are both plugged in directly. Once boil is reached I unplug one and leave the other plugged in. I also have the lid half on. This gives me a pretty decent boil. If both elements are plugged in the boil tends to be too aggressive, splashing worth out and shaking the kettle.
 
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Monmouth00

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I've got a similar set-up. I have two 1,500 watt elements. When heating to strike or to reach boil, they are both plugged in directly. Once boil is reached I unplug one and leave the other plugged in. I also have the lid half on. This gives me a pretty decent boil. If both elements are plugged in the boil tends to be too aggressive, splashing worth out and shaking the kettle.
So, based on my two 1650 watt elements, I should be having the same result, right?

It's strange that it comes up to 160 so quickly, and from 160 to boiling OK, but then craps out right at boiling.

I have the inkbird set to about 220 degrees F to get to boiling temps - should I up that to say, 230?
Or go manual mode and just put the output on 100%
 

khannon

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Do you have any thermal paste or similar in the thermowell? I use DS18B20s in my system, and have found that without thermal paste they lag significantly behind, even with, they tend to lag behind a little bit(temp takes longer to register). Thermowell placement could be an issue as well. Above the heating element seems a lot warmer than below

Insulation is always going to help. Especially with ambient being 42(assuming F, otherwise it's a bit warm(C) or dead frozen(K)).. Reflectix works, having someone sew it is great, otherwise duct-tape works.

I just started with Electric, but went 5500W elements at 240V(one per vessel). When I get to a boil I have to dial them back to 18% to maintain a good boil, any more than that and I get boil-overs. Quick math says that's running one of your 1650W elements at ~60% to maintain a boil of ~12G of wort. I'm also running a home-made steam-slayer like product. seems to maintain a good boil at slightly lower energy.

I would try the elements manually just to have the info.
 
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Monmouth00

Monmouth00

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My thermowell is at about the same level as the heaters. You can see it on the bottom left of the picture.
I don’t use thermal paste, but I don’t necessarily see this as the problem. I’m not overshooting, I’m under shooting my temps. If it was lagging I’d get a bigger boil than I wanted, right?
I did notice that the element plugged into the wall was giving an equal low roll to the one plugged into the Inkbird, so I’m also unsure if the PID interference is the blame.
the two circuits are brand new, and located right next to the panel. I’ll check the voltage, and will keep my fingers crossed that isn’t the culprit.
I need to get the aluminum insulated and see how much of a difference that will make.
I do want to figure this out before my first brew day.
 

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khannon

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Sure, lagging behind will mean the element shuts off or reduces power later which *should* in more heat rather than less. This would also be true of the hot water rising rather than passing the temp sensor.

Can you try with water indoors at a higher ambient temp? I know you want(maybe need) to brew outside, but maybe it will take one variable away.

Of note is that if you are doing a 5G BIAB, you are going to start with 8G(ish) water, but only boiling ~6.5 (I use .1gal/lb of grain for absorption, but I also use a 3V system)

Running both elements at the same time will produce a bit of heat, but only a constant amount no matter how high you set the temp on the inkbird. I'm thinking that with it that cold, with the lid off, it might just be "not enough" you could try with the lid partially on, DMS is not as much of an issue as it used to be.

Again, I think insulation will help, maybe trying with what your projected volume will be and not the full 8?

100% is going to be 100% though, I would think that ~3300W would be (more than)enough to keep a rapid boil.

Maybe move to someplace warmer? I would justify it with "Hey I gotta make beer, right?". Of course if you do that make sure to look at the water profile before moving.
 
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Monmouth00

Monmouth00

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Of note is that if you are doing a 5G BIAB, you are going to start with 8G(ish) water, but only boiling ~6.5 (I use .1gal/lb of grain for absorption, but I also use a 3V system)

Again, I think insulation will help, maybe trying with what your projected volume will be and not the full 8?

Maybe move to someplace warmer? I would justify it with "Hey I gotta make beer, right?". Of course if you do that make sure to look at the water profile before moving.
Good point - maybe it's just not enough at the low ambient temp to boil the whole 8 gallons. I'll try again with the 6.5 post-mash volume to see if that makes a difference. Good idea - thank you.

I'll definitely insulate too - hoping those two things combined give me a strong boil.

I couldn't live anywhere else but Jersey - they wouldn't take me.
 
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Monmouth00

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Here’s a quick update:
I ran the same experiment again in 37 degree ambient temps. Started with a full 8 gallons in the kettle. I forgot to turn on one of the burners (through the inkbird) for the first 20 minutes or so - stupid oversight- so I obviously didn’t get up to mash temps anywhere near as quickly.
Once I hit 160, I removed approximately 2.25 gallons from the kettle to simulate the loss from pulling the bag, and what I would hope my boil volume would be on a normal brew day.
With the lower water volume, I was able to get the water up to near boiling temps more quickly. I did get a good vigorous boil going, but had to keep everything at least partially covered with the lid. With a fully open pot, the temps would drop to 208 with a very slow roll.
I guess I’m confident enough at this point to move forward with a brew day, but I’m a bit concerned about having to monitor the boil, and having to keep the kettle partially covered. I’ve read about off flavors as a result of covered boils - should I be concerned?
I’ll still plan to insulate the outside of the kettle.
Thanks so much for your thoughts.
 

Bobby_M

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Insulation will definitely make a noticeable difference in cold ambient temps with an aluminum kettle. Did you try that yet? If it's sitting on something that can act as a heat sink, you can rest the pot on something insulative also. I know reflectix can handle boiling temps when on the sides but it may fail under the weight of the kettle.
I still think you should test your unloaded voltage to see where you stand there. Also, test the elements all the way through the cables by unplugging them and testing the ohms across the hot/neutral prongs on the cable to make sure the elements are within spec. I don't suspect that as a problem but it's better to rule everything out.
 
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Monmouth00

Monmouth00

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Also, test the elements all the way through the cables by unplugging them and testing the ohms across the hot/neutral prongs on the cable to make sure the elements are within spec. I don't suspect that as a problem but it's better to rule everything out.
Can you tell me what reading i should expect on an ohms test of the elements, if tested through the plug prongs?

Thanks!
 

odie

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reading the original post...I say nothing at all is wrong with your system...except I don't see where you have insulated the kettle. most people use reflectix from Lowes or Home Depot.

My 15 gal kettle does just fine with a single 1650 watt 110v element. Inkbird controller. I set at 212' and the probe sits just below the surface and reads low 200's while a have a gentle rolling boil. certainly enough output to brew beer. Remember water will not exceed 212. as soon as the 212' water that is boiling right at the element meanders around the kettle and eventually reaches the location of your temp probe, it will have lost some heat. The water is only absorbing heat right at the element. everywhere else it is slowly shedding heat.
 
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Monmouth00

Monmouth00

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reading the original post...I say nothing at all is wrong with your system...except I don't see where you have insulated the kettle. most people use reflectix from Lowes or Home Depot.

My 15 gal kettle does just fine with a single 1650 watt 110v element. Inkbird controller. I set at 212' and the probe sits just below the surface and reads low 200's while a have a gentle rolling boil. certainly enough output to brew beer. Remember water will not exceed 212. as soon as the 212' water that is boiling right at the element meanders around the kettle and eventually reaches the location of your temp probe, it will have lost some heat. The water is only absorbing heat right at the element. everywhere else it is slowly shedding heat.
2 layers of reflectix!!
 

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odie

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2 layers of reflectix!!
I originally had 3 layers since the roll was long enough. Just used one layer a few times recently and didn't notice any perceivable difference in times. I'm sure there was if I did a controlled experiment but the difference is likely fairly negligible.
 
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